Home Sport Rugby Gatland has found X-factor in Boshier

Gatland has found X-factor in Boshier

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Boshier has had no equal in Super Rugby this season in winning turnovers

New All Blacks coach Ian Foster is in self-isolation after returning to New Zealand from a trip to Britain and Europe. Photo: Reuters

Warren Gatland has had an immediate impact on his return to New Zealand rugby.

His Chiefs are winning more than they are losing and Gatland has found an X-factor in Lachlan Boshier that was not quite as obvious in the past few years.

The 25 year-old Boshier has been in the Chiefs system since 2016 and has played 50 Super Rugby matches, but he made more of an impact in the first four rounds of this year’s competition than he did in the past four years.

Boshier, modest and unassuming, is the opposite in the way he attacks the breakdown, and his style of play has blossomed because of Gatland’s game strategy and emphasis on pressure defence. Gatland, as he did when coaching Wasps and Wales, has the ability to turn good players into super players; individuals blessed with strong basic skills who prosper because of Gatland’s appetite for simplicity in how the game is played.

Boshier, at 1.94 metres, is blossoming in the specialist No 7 jersey role of openside flank. He has also formed a potent combination with All Black loose-forward Sam Cane, who is among the favourites to captain the All Blacks under new coach Ian Foster.

Boshier has had no equal in Super Rugby this season in winning turnovers. He is averaging five turnovers a match, with the next best player averaging two. His tackle count is also in the top five in the competition.

The All Blacks have struggled to find a settled loose-forward combination since legendary captain Richie McCaw retired and veteran blindside Jerome Kaino opted to finish his career with French club Toulouse. The All Blacks have used several players in the McCaw role, with Cane viewed as the natural successor, but Boshier’s impact has allowed Cane to settle as blindside flank, with a feature of his game being his strong ball-carrying into contact.

Boshier played for New Zealand Schools in 2012 and for New Zealand Under-20s in 2014, but in his first four years of Super Rugby was never mentioned as a possible All Black loose forward. Now his name is top of the list in traditional and social media discussions when it comes to All Black selection. Gatland, who will lead the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021 and return to New Zealand rugby for the 2022 season, has also rejuvenated Aaron Cruden’s career.

Cruden, who won a World Cup medal with the All Blacks in 2011, moved off-shore to French Top 14 side Montpellier a few seasons ago. He battled with injury and never settled in Montpellier.

Gatland quickly has got the best out of Cruden, who in the past month, produced the form that made him a regular with the All Blacks inbetween the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.

Gatland has also settled on Damian McKenzie as a fullback, ending former All Black coach Steve Hansen’s experiment of McKenzie at flyhalf.